It was a morning much like any Tuesday in New South Wales – until disaster struck a packed eight-car commuter train from Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains as it approached the suburb of Granville, 22 km (14 mi) west of Sydney in January 1977. Just short of Granville Station, the train jumped the tracks at 08:10 and smashed into the overhead Bold Street road bridge supports. The carnage that ensued became Australia’s worst-ever rail disaster, taking over 80 lives and injuring more than 200.
The derailed engine and two carriages emerged from beneath the bridge, whereupon the first carriage had its roof ripped off by an overhead gantry – with fatal consequences for several passengers. The remaining carriages ground to a halt, with the rear of the third carriage and front of the fourth under the bridge. Agonizingly, the bridge’s heavy concrete and steel central section collapsed ten seconds later, bringing a number of cars down with it and pancaking half of each carriage below.
The aftermath was horrifying for those who struggled to deal with the shattered train. Emergency services were faced with the harrowing task of trying to extract survivors – plus horribly broken and mutilated corpses – from wreckage that been almost completely flattened in places. Many survivors were badly trapped and had serious crush injuries. Worse still, rescuers had to cope with many lucid victims who conversed bravely with them until finally freed, at which point they died almost immediately from crush syndrome – renal failure following the release of muscle myoglobins that build up in trapped limbs. The last survivor was not released for 48 hours but he, too, tragically died shortly afterwards.
The crash was caused by bad track maintenance, but it is now generally agreed that the full extent of official negligence was covered up at the time.
When was the Granville Train Disaster: January 18 1977
Where was the Granville Train Disaster: Granville, New South Wales, Australia
What was the Granville Train Disaster death toll: 83 died and over 213 were significantly injured.
You should know: The electric locomotive that derailed at Granville was an ill-starred engine. Built in 1957, the Co+Co 46 class No 4620 had previously featured in a dramatic accident in 1965, when the brakes failed as it hauled a goods train down from the Blue Mountains towards Sydney. The runaway train reached a speed of 160 kph (100 mph) before derailing. After Granville, 4620 was put into storage before being scrapped in 1979.